Tonight, the world shares our doorstep. Argentina, France, the Czek Republic, Bulgaria, Romania – they sing and dance and for a moment forget that wars rage, and people die, and bills plague. They have come to watch the World play futball on a tiny screen on a big planet, but this corner of Razgrad has lost its electricity, so, the guitars come out by candlelight, and cultures that exhale music begin to communicate.
The melodies are sometimes off key, it’s passionately eclectic, impromptu and sung in this Bulgarian outdoor cafe that has suddenly gone dark. But, somewhere in the midst of all that is worldly here, a part of me wonders if this isn’t somehow closer to the nights that Jesus spent on this planet than we think.
I know how that could sound, but I am not questioning God’s holiness. Nor am I suggesting that we compromise ethically. There is absolutely no doubt that Jesus led a holy life, a righteous life, a life without sin. We are called to that life.
But, our letter says that He also ate with tax collectors, sat and talked with women, spent time with friends, cooked fish. I dare to voice that the Rabi of Nazareth would have been at ease here in unplugged Razgrad. And, I dare to ask, ‘Are we?’ Are we at ease with a missiology that leads us to be here too?
What if our Sunday havens and our Christian radio, and our weekly Bible studies and our Christian fellowship – none of them bad and all of them good, in balance – are out of balance? What if they create a threshold that we rarely dare to cross? What if?
This Jesus of ours was not the tame, weak, pale shadow of a man that our version of Christianity sometimes makes him out to be.
His hands were calloused, his arms were strong, and he was likable, personable. I imagine that he was quick to laugh. I believe I would have wanted to sit with him on the edge of the sea with a coffee and a conversation. His muscles would have rippled from manual labor, his eyes squinting into the sun. The Jesus-moments we see are part campfires and unplugged guitars and starry nights of impromptu conversations with not-yet kingdom dwellers.
I look around at this generation sauntering with us on this journey through Central Europe and believe that they understand, actually, they long for, an unplugged Jesus experience. They desperately want to be a church that is IN the world; available, interactive, fish-frying, approachable, mobile, passionately Rabi-like.
Do you ever wonder what would happen if we let Lazarus dance?
If the electricity that powers our programs and our Sunday morning schedules was suddenly Razgrad-dark, would we be more open, more available, to stand by Jesus and call our friend back across the doorstep of that ugly, cold grave?
As our travels move us through the week, we spend an evening in a Turkish Roma (Gypsy) village and I am again overwhelmed by the belief that Jesus would have felt right at home in the midst of this music, and color, and raw living. There is room for honest questions and conversations here.
Then our Bulgaria wanderings lead us beyond our comfort zones into a room in an ancient mosque, where an Imam leader takes time to talk to us about Islam and to serve us Turkish tea. We have this amazing opportunity because Pastor Nikolay has intentionally developed a relationship of mutual respect with this man. And, just for a moment, I think that I can feel the cold stones of a Samaritan well as I sip my Turkish tea.
We move on to The Open Door, where we see the kingdom literally breaking in, and my soul does a Lazarus dance because the jagged threshold between the US and the THEM has miraculously been breached. Here, in the most unexpected of places, the Rabi-presence is profoundly visible. Humbly, Josh takes a guitar and he begins to play while Mary Magdalene sings her new song. We cry. All of us cry when Lazarus dances.
And, I can’t help it but imagine that Lazarus danced because he glimpsed what we cannot. He saw the new kingdom has no doors, has no walls, it just has people. People that are unplugged from our national identities, unplugged from ethnic prejudices and dehumanizing cycles, unplugged from religious wars and slavery, exhaling, and breathing a new kind of air. A kingdom air.
Sometimes, in Roma villages, and Muslim mosques, and squeezed in-between Mary Magdalene, and squinting across the Black Sea, and by candlelight in Razgrad, my feet start to twitch and a giggle bubbles through. Like The Rabi just whispered a funny one-liner. And just for a precious moment, I understand, really understand why Lazarus danced.